|Newspaper Title||Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||The Rival Claimants|
b, iRoveIi[t.5. The Rival Claimants. By MRS. H.UIR IET LEWIS. 0 ;Auhor of " The Sundred Hearts," "The t Balif's Schem,"' " The Double Life," Etc., Etc. CHAPTER XXIII.-(Co.-vr.uEDn.) Lame Bill's face was momentarily a averted frnim his enemy. Watclinghis chanc:, Bassantyne sprangL upon him with the leap of a tiger, utter ing a hIarse cry tf nieo. Taken unawarea, Ltime Bill had not time to draw a ,eupon. lie struck ot, blindly with his hands, fighting for.dear h life. A quick. sharp struggle between the two succeeded.. Bas-antyne was heavyr. burly and powerful. He had the atrentlh -of a d giant in his brawny arms The other, albeit lame, was as quick and supple as a I panther. He knew where, when his first h panic was over, to plant his blows to make them effective, and he had a way , of using his bullet-head as a .battering ram-a mode of fighting which. with the merit of novelty, was also as effective as his blows. For a little while only the' loarse breathing and muttered curses of the two men were heard in the little glade. But at last the conflict drew near its end, the superior. strength of Bassantyne giving him the upper hand.. S"You will betray me. will you?" he itittered, hoarsely.. ",Wo'ell see I Let us. settle our otstanding account, my friend I" And with the mocking sne'er he dealt jlis enemy a blow upon the temple that felled him to the ground. The man fell limp and lifeless. His face, bruised and swoollen, was stained with blood. ' His eyelids drooped to his cheeks. His arms fell to his side. Bassantyne stooped over him and lifted one of his arms, letting it fall. It dropped a dead weight. Bassantyne's qheeks began to flush. He raised the battered, swoollen head, and thrust his hand into the man's breast to feel if his heart still beat. "He's dead " Bassantyne muttered, excitedly, arising to his feet. "Well, that danger's over. You got more than the ten thousand pbunds you asked for, Lame Bill I If you could have foreseen this, 3ou might not have been so bold in your demands 1" He listened, with the quick start of guilt, for some sound of approaching steps. But all that he heard was the music of the birds, the rustle of the wind through the leaves, the murmur of the waters. He breathed more freely. " Dead I" he said to himself, spurning the body with his foot. ." That danger is disposed of. And now how to meet this one 7 What am I to do with this body?" , There was a deep pool of water on the estate, but it was half a mile distant. It would not be possible to drag the body to it in broad daylight without meeting some laborer who would give the alarm. But with the body once dropped into the depths of Black Pool, Bassantyne could i el sure that the secret of his crime was safely buried forever. "I must take it there,",he thought, agitatedly. "But how? There are men working in the vicinity, trimming the trees. I must wait till night. Meanwhile I will hide the body in some safe spot, where it can remain till night !" ;He set about his search tor a safe hid ing-place, yet not daring to venture far Sfrom the little dell, where the ghastly ob -"4ijact-he-meant-to hide was lying, with i!_.s'awbllen'face upturned to the shower of '''atinlight.' ."..' Presently he found what he sought-a little hollow, shut in and completely shad Sowed and darkened by a clump of thick growing firs. It was a covert for rabbits, or other game, and the dead leaves heaped within it that had been blown from vari ous quarters showed that the park-keeper aeldom peered into its recesses. "The very spot 1" muttered Bassan tyne. "I will hide the body here till night, and then I will sink it in the Black Pool ?" ge hastened to drag the inert figure to Soe little hollow, and flung it, arranging the branches of the trees to hide the body. Then he sought to obliterate the traces of the recent conflict in the little glade, which effort was partially successful. His task completed, he hurried from the glade; wandering restlessly through the park until he had grown composed, payin an apparently idle visit to the BlackPool, and at last saunt?rig back to Jýie _all.
During the 'remainder ot toe naly ne was uneasy aud restless. lie took ride n his spirited hunter, but somehow the, w gaze of men warnot so.plo nt as uoesual . to-day. At every curious glance he. trembled, fancying that thlere might be 'p aome blood stain on him he.lha over looked, or some taken of that conllict b which had resulted to disasir, ly n to his enemy. There were a few ti scratches and bruises uponl h m. These he magnified into' gaping wounds, and finally, tremblilg and terrified, kB ce at turned to the Hall:' . ' it Hespent an hour or so in xtis smoking- fr room. He took abath, and dressed hit eelf carefully in' t new anit ordered from ti Oublin, and when the dinner-bell rani, , e descended to the drawing-room scru mulotily dressed, yet pale ind worn and , saggard. The Lady. Kathleen was already in the o drawing-room, and the ill-assorted pair descended to the dining-room together. .. There was an atnosphru of guiltabout h Bassantyne, fresh from his crime that rle pure instinct of the Lady Kathleen de= tected, but could not understand.' Sho shrank front all contact with hii.u, and the meal nas eaten in silence. It is worthy of remark that Baasantyne, despite his perturbation ate a hearty repast. ' In truth, he was sufficiently familiar a with crime, and hardened by tlthat familiar-` ity, to feel a keen sense of relief at the turn affairs had taken. Lemne Bill re-t moved forever front his path, what" hadd lie to fear 1' Nothing-except, perliaps, the treachery of Murple.' He wodld meoti his dangers one at a time, he thought, and conquer them all. . After dinner. he went:out into. tle. garden to resiume his smoking, sand later; he went into the house,' and tohiso'?ni.i room:. . . ; , . . . ; " rI must do nothing toexcite suspicion." he thought. "Old Delaney has eyes lik6 a hawk, and has set. himself to watching me, t can see. I must not stir out untd the house is silent for the night. I must be cautious-very cautious !" The hours crept on. The sounds died out of the house. It was growing late. Bassantyne proceeded to change his light garments for old and dark ones. f Then he extinguished his light and looked out. The night was suitable for his purpose, being moonless and gloomy, yet not in tensely dark. He could trace the objects on the laws; distinctly-the marble urns, a winged Mercury on a pedestal, and a rose hedge. He waited until the great houseo clock had rung out the hourof midnight. Then he put'on a pair of list slippers and quitted his room, locking the door behind him. f All was still in the house. The servants had retired, anid the hall lights were ex tinguished. lie crept down the grand staircase like a burglar, listening, and coming to a halt. now and then in a panic, fancying he t heard the stops of Delaney. the steward. But no interruption occurred to his movements. He gained the front door, and softly undid its bolts and bars and comllicated fastenings, and opened the door, and crept upon the porch. Then he glided down the steps and hurried into the shadow of the rose hedge.1 But, fancying that hostile eyes might be looking out at him from the windows of the old Hall, he moved fleetly in the shadow until he gained the edge of the s park. p Now I am safe I" he said to himself. "No one has seen me. No one will come out to watch me. I have only to .arry that thing to the Black Pool, fill' its pockets with stones, and sink it i Then I shall be indeed safe!" He moved swiftly along the lonely, paths into the depths of the park, making: for the hollow where he had concealed the body of Lame Bill. He reached it and knelt down in the shade of the spreading furs, and groped in tile hollow with his hands. The hollow was empty I! Horrified and frightened, Bassantyne drew out his match-case and struck a light. There was a pine cone on the ground at his elbow. He lighted this and flung it into the hollow. The body was indeed gone I! Bassantyne uttered an ejaculation of horror and terror. "Gonel" he whispered incredulously. " Gone I And where?" With the red light of the burning cone playing on his haggard, convulsed visage, he searched the hollow for some token of the cause of Lame Bill's disappear. ance. Presently he uttered a hoarse cry. He had detected footprints, not his own, by the side of the hollow-footprints which he knew must have been made by his enemy "He was not dead, then?" he cried. " I had only etunne. him I He has fled to bring the officers hare. How many hours has he been gone Ourse him l Why did I not make sure of him I Fool 'thatI aimi I deserve my rain '` For a moment he knelt there, with the face 'of a demon. Then he rose Up, whisperingto himself i "It's all up ! I must see Kathleen at once 1If I sink,'she sinks with me l"' With glaring eyes and desperate soul he hurried through the park' toward the HaL L CHAPTER'XXIV. GooABTY Sem ncow TO MAKE MONEY. For hours the young Lady Nora Kil dare slept'on, in the little swift-sailing sloop. under- the dark night sky, her small head drooped low on her bosom; and for hours her fellow-voyager, Fo garty, sat at the killer, watching her, and debating the fearful problem of what should he do with her ? On the one hand was the reward offg-rod him by Michael Kildare for. his f ward's destruction-a trivial reward, and considered only because behind it lay the threat of a betrayal into the hands of the law. On the other hand were riches and safets, Fogarty thought, with advantages . and pleasures innumerable. d Long before the Lady Nora awoke, Fogarty had decided that she should live, ir and live for his benefit. "'rm out of the lawyer's reach here," - he mused. "I can hide where he can Snever finld me. I have folnd a mine of : wealth, and I lill be a fool notto work it. Why shoild I play into Michael Kil Sdare's hands when my own pockets'are g empty 1" n And with these thoughts came projects of gaining wealth for himself out of the i coffers which he supposed might, afterall, , belong to the Lady Nora. "hMy days as valet are over," he a thought, exultantly, "Bassantyne will h find that I am as clever as he. He Smananed, by some legerdemain, to induce e an heires to elope with him. I shall get to money,and not be tied down to the whims of mtr fine lady I"
The. mo-ning broke at last over: the l natere a dull,'glootey isuhileos,'inoirniig, with afirm, breeze?.t: , J . '.-- X The little sloiup was heading her way: r gallantly to the, north,' and tmaking fair prorees. Foarty was? cotunt , 'and ate h his breakfast, which he procured f:om the b asket, with a good nPlpetite.' lHe had no conscience to interfere with his digee -An hour or so later'the -Lady 'ora awhkeried. She aroused'hereolf with a tart, and looked' around her with. a fricitoqeed'gaz?' " Oh, I had foegotten 'I was on my way toEngland," ashe said, as the color slowly u titned her pale cheeks. t I' fancied my self still in my, prison 'at..Yew, cottage. i low glorious this free, strong air is 1 And we are out of sight of land ?" . She stood up and eura?yed the waters on every aide with dilated eyes;. " Yes, my lady," returned Fogarty, " we're bowling ilong at rtght knots an' hour, as near as I can'mike' oit. The swind isshifty. We'll do better when shel settles. ' ' . t " But there is eo sun," said the Ladyj Nora, looking up at the duon clouds. t ' How can you tell your course ?,. Have you a compass T' -. "No,my lady," answered the pretended' sailor. "But I can tell our course by the wind. And all ;night I told it by, the stars. We're all right, my lady. Timn Fogarty knows this 'ere Channel as well t as he knows the way to his mouth I'".. The Lady Nora was reassured, yet for a long time she looked thoughtfully at both sea and sky. At. last she. asked: - ' - , "Ought we not to get: to Liverpool by noone Mr. Fogarty ?"r,; --? ts" . '; I 'With this wind, my lady?!"-asked Fogarty in apparent setonedis ient . It's well we'll 'be doing, if we-get there by sunset." But it's not for Liverpool I'ni making I Mr. Kildare, when he discovers our flight, my lady,- may send by the steamer, or telegraph, to Liverpool and Holyhead to intercept you. And so it would be better to put in some small bay on the English coast near Southport, and you can take the train to Manchester from Southport." The Lady Nora's face brightened. "You are very thoughtful, Lr. Fogarty I" she exclaimed. " You shall be well rewarded for all your kindnessto me, if I have to sell my jewelery to repay you. I am poor, you know, butif ever I should be rich I shall know howtoreward your goodness."' "It's not helping you for money I am!" said Fogarty, hypocritically. "It is out of pity. It's not in a sailor's heart to, look on calmly and see an innocent girl persecuted. But eat your. breakfast, my lady. This air makes sharp appoe titres " . The Lady Nora, weakened by. her meagre prison fate,'felt the need of com plying with this huggestion. She got out the provision basket, and took fromt it a slice of bread and a piece-of cold meat, these being the chief edibles it afforded. There was a large can of fresh water,. which had been placed in the half,cabin by the oswner of the sloop, and to this can. was attached a rusty tin cup. The Lady Nora moistened her meagre breakfast with the water, and both food and drink had a delicious taste to her which pre tentious feasts had formerly sometimes lacked. Her breakfast over, she resumed her seat and the contemplation of the hear ong, white-capped waters. As the morning deepened the clouds lifted. At noon the sun showed itself, and the chill October air had a tinge of warmth imparted to it. The young girl ceased to shiver under her wrappings. S"'Are you sure we are going in the right direction, -Mer..Fogarty 1'" asked the Lady 'Io1a, at length, when the sun had begun to descend the afternoon sky. ' "We do not seem to be going east 1" "We are all right, my lady," said Fogarty. "I shall tack presently. It's on the tack I am now. I've been wonder ing, my lady," he added, "why Mr. Kildare should have treated you so ill. It's not altogether to make you marry a nobleman, I'm thinking I" "No, that was not all he shut me up for," - said the young heiress. "I happened to overhear a conversation in which he took part the last evening of my stay at his house, and the discoveries I then made and the revelations I over heard were full of danger to him. He discovered my presence in the adjoining room, at that very night brought me- to Yew Cottage, informing me that I should -neveribe released until I agreed to marry Lord Kildare A promise to do so would alone give him safety after what I had overheard I" " And what was it yun overheard, my lady I" asked Foggrty, with pretended in. difference. " That I cannot tell you,' Mr." Fogarty. I can tell no one until' I have seen my principal guardian, Sir Russel Ryan." Fogarty looked chagrined. He had expected to find it an easy matter to induce the Lady Nora to tell him all she knew concerning her kinsman; but something now in the grave, sweet face, and lovely, resolute mouth told him that she was not one to open her heart to everyone. -Not even the supposed service he had rendered her, and was rendering her, could induce her to make him her confidant. " ."If you was to tell me, I might help you." he suggested. "The only help I need is in getting to England," said the Lady Nora, with a bright; warm smile. "You are render ing me the only and the greatest servi,.e now that you can, Mr. Fonarty. Once on English soil. I can take care of myself. Once with Sir Russel, he will take care of me." "And so you won't tell, me l" said Fogarty, a little sullenly. The young heiress opened her sunny eyes more widely. Such pertinacity was as aidgular as it was disagroeYtile'- "'-: " I carnnot tell you," he said. gravely. Fogarty scowled, but was silent. The change in his looks impressed the young girl, but she also was siloent. Presently the man spoke again. " I heard Mr. Kildaro say, as he went down tie staits at Yew Cottage last night, that 'you know too much.' HowIA did you know too much, my lady ? You have got track of some secret qof hi, the dis closure of which will injure tis repula lion?" " I cannot answer your questions no", my friend," returned Lady Nore. "My confidence is due, first of all, to my Sgua?rdian," Fogarty scowled again. The role if virtue was becoming irksome to him. He was a reckless, hid-hearted fellow at best, anrd was capable of few good deeds, ex cept when such deeds were likely to prove profitable. He began to think now that a dlisclosure of the facts in the case,and of her h Iplessness, might make his girl passenger more confidential. " Shite's cot to tell mt tsIt whKlen story."
he thought.? "And aessh: won't tell rit. outof friendliness, she misut'oiif'dffiir. I liii?w' I-in'"torrify heF nuto aee6 npleto revelation."' He studied, how to tell her the truth, how-to reveal to liher his truecharacter. And whlile he was thus engaged, the younz girl ws ?studying him.; Tier fact that there was something strange about this pretended sailor was,;just forcing it-: self upon her attention. "I didn't tell you that I knew Mr. Kildare persomnlly, did I ?" asked Fogariy. " Did I mention to you that I had a long interview with him alone last nightin my imother's parlor?" The young heiressstarted. She replied in the negative. S".It's so,' said Fogarty, smiling sul oenly. "You never heard of me, you Myid. ' My past is nothing to boast on, and Kildare knows it. He knows, too, that :imn wanted eut in the colony. You see, I had an:engageiient to stay, there a cer tain number of years, and I broke the en gsgehient and.came lihome: Kildare knew that too." . . . The girl did hot oinderstand. She con tintied to regard him with grave, inno cent eyes, sweet and fearless, vaguely conscious only that there was somethling wrolng. . ' Well, you broke your engagement 1" she said, a little impatiently. - "Yes, I broke it," exclaimed Fogarty, laughing boistereusly. " And it's against the law to break an engagement of that sort. Kildare knew' he had the whip- hand. 'Antd so lie tries to makeme do his dirty wiork. ' H has a ward, says he,, that ' knios too miich:' And he says he vwants a bold fellow to dispose of her.. Haw i says I.: Here's-your plan, says he,' and you'rethe ian to;do,.it. And' with that he says as liow:hiR ward is as inno-, cent as a.baby, having been brought up in the country. And it would be easy to get rid of her, and twenty pounds to the, mano that sinks her in St. George's Chan nel." The young lady Nori' leaned- forward. breathless, eager, panting. Her sunny eyes shone .like stars from out of the' whiteness of her face.. He wanted to kill me 1!' she ejaculated. ."Oh, Mr. Fogarty I you are not deceiv iag me ? He really offered you money to drown mei?" -, " He really did: Twenty pounds, and to go scot free; and if I didn' t doit, a be= :trayal to the police on account" of my past offences." . "He waited to kill me '! repeated the girl,'in a piteous voice.l "~01, Heaven I 1 have loved him so l The discovery of all his biseness and treachery wmunds me. to the soul! O, Michaell Michaell:' ; i Her voice broke down in a; wild, wail ing sob. -, "What did he say when you refused td fall in with his plans 1" asked the Ladi Nora, a little later, when shi had grown calul againi. "I didn't refuse, my lady."' "Ah !.. You pretended to consider themi '. Your words' gave him such a otart then,'Ir. Fogarty. You made':'Michael thitik'you would kill me ?".. S"Yes, nlty.lady." , "And h w-how. was it tobe done t" i " I was to wait twventy-four, hours, till last night, my lady, and then I was to` go to - your room--no I am getting` ahead of my ttory-?Ir. Kildare was to send me a disguise yesterday morning,i my lady-a suit of a sailor girments, so - that'I could pretend to you that Iam a silor--" "But you area sailor, are you not, Mr. Fogarty" -" "No, my lady ." The young girl looked at her companion with two terrible eyes. They seemed to: be burning, and they were Lopened 'to: their widest extent, giving them a " wildI look. . .:,, - ,. . .. . .:.... : I -, Not asailor?" "i "LHo, my lady.. The character is .pt, on with the clothes.o .",